Saturday, November 6, 2010

Here we go...

(...and before we begin, can we just agree once and for all that the team should revert back to the old logo above? Who would be against this? Look at that thing! It's freaking majestic!)

If the hiring of John Farrell to be The Manager charged with taking this Blue Jays club to the next level (ahem...playoffs!) signified the start of the offseason, Thursday's "option deadline" provided Hotstove fans with the first transaction of the winter...fall...whatever. And while the trade for & subsequent declining of Miguel Olivo's 2011 option hasn't exactly flown under the radar with praise for the move abundant, it's significance cannot be overstated:

These aren't your father's Blue, your older brother's Blue, you know what I mean.

In a move stunningly brilliant in it's simplicity, Alex Anthopoulos essentially guaranteed his club another supplemental draft pick in the 2011 amateur draft and created more legitimate options at the catching position. The ramifications of the transaction are wide, considering:

* under the supposition that the Jays really are interested (to whatever degree) in re-signing John Buck, when (not if) he declines arbitration - the team is in a win-win position: he signs elsewhere netting a supp pick, or he remains with the team - presumably on their terms given the added leverage.

* if Buck re-signs, Olivo, who we will logically presume will also decline arb in favour of searching out a multi-year deal (at 32, taking a one-year arb offer presents too much risk for The Player) is sure to sign elsewhere, preserving the supplemental pick "forfeited" in bringing back the incumbent, Buck.

* if Buck walks - which I believe he will - the Jays happily scoop the pick and have his potential (one year) replacement in waiting with Olivo, who might not find a better opportunity for playing time elsewhere as he sets up his free agency year with an offer constructed similar to the one Buck agreed to last winter.

Of course, this is all under the assumption that the Jays aren't comfortable going to spring training with JP Arencibia all but handed the starting job. And to be honest, it just doesn't feel like that's the direction the club wants to go. Perhaps it's the memory of JPA collecting dust on Cito's bench that's influencing my opinion here, but I can't shake the feeling that the club isn't sold. Having said that.... Anthopoulos has very openly stated there's nothing left for Arencibia to prove in the minor leagues, meaning....

* he will get consistent at-bats with the Blue Jays in 2011, or

* he will be traded.

Friends, all of the above pontification comes from one minor move. But that's the beauty of the current Jays regime, isn't it? Everything that's done is transacted with an eye towards the next move, or maybe the one after that. Proactive vs Reactive. It's absolutely the way the club needs to be run and is finally being run.

Moving past the ramifications for the 2011 season, the Olivo transaction is hugely symbolic of the Jays' new value system - investing & building through the draft. And once again - pardon me for repeating - it's absolutely the way the club needs to be run. It's no longer about setting up for a season where the Yankees and Red Sox look poised to fall back - though that will always be a consideration - the organization's new & current philosophy is to build a club that is consistently strong and deep enough to challenge on any given year.

It's being Tampa Bay with enough payroll dollars promised by ownership to maintain. While that component remains to be seen, I choose not to be a complete fucking pessimist about it. Toronto will never compete with the Yanks and Sox on payroll dollars, but every voice that matters - from Nadir Mohamed to Handsome Tony Viner to Paul Beeston to Alex Anthopoulos to John Farrell - has relayed the same message: when it's time, the dollars will be there.

No more waiting for a break. Given the strength of the division (and depth of pocket), the Jays will instead look to make their own breaks. Is there a lot of work to be done? Of course. But there's real hope and optimism for the future of the franchise that extends well beyond a few Blue Jay blogs, and that's more than could have been said in many a November past.


bkblades said...

To liberally borrow a Blue Jays blogosphere phrase again: NAILS. Besides, more words from seemingly minor Blue Jays moves means summer lingers on forever.

simonisevil said...

i agree completely about the logo. can't stand the re-brand.

Torgen said...

I'd be happy with the J on the old two-tone hat.

Mattt said...

You just said everything I've been feeling/thinking regarding our Toronto Blue Jays. Nice post.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Being creative is great. But it all has to work. Otherwise, it's $500,000 plus a player for a draft pick that didn't pan out.

Anonymous said...

I've never commented here before but I have enjoyed you for years. I have to say I'm not getting the logic here. in one paragraph you state "the organization's new & current philosophy is to build a club that is consistently strong and deep enough to challenge on any given year", but in the next its "when it's time, the dollars will be there". Well doesn't that kind of mean the money always has to be there? or does it just mean nothing at all.

Some day all these draft picks and prospects have to actually get turned into a winning team, and nobody is saying how that's actually going to work, just that they are going to what? keep acquiring them, and then the time will come (but it will always be that time) and money will be added and voila! I realize that it's early but right now i worry that it's all just underwear gnomes thinking, draft picks + ? = profit. And when fans finally start to figure this out in a couple of years, and they haven't lucked into some great success, they'll just juggle the pieces again.

The Ack said...

Anon, the "consistently strong & deep" philosophy has to start with a top minor league system producing players able to contribute at the major league level in an above average fashion, which has essentially been the goal of the front office to date.

The "money will be there" component means that Rogers will loosen the purse strings for key free agent acquisitions or acquiring star players in trade when the first part of The Plan has been successfully executed.

But that's the rub, isn't it? I completely understand folks' cynicism in this regard.

I also completely agree that stockpiling picks and bolstering the depth of young talent has to - sooner than later - bring results at the big-league level. But patience is necessarily required and I think it's the obvious way to build the org.

But hey, that's just me.

Ty said...

I don't know how many people caught this, but AA said in his conference call tue other day that he's never even been given a budget to work within. He just brings his proposals individually to Beeston/Rogers and they've never said "no" to anything.

Obviously some people will still choose to be cynical until the Jays make some kind of huge FA signing (and really - for those looking for such a deal, which free agent do you want them to sign this offseason?) but that sounds like a seriously enviable working environment for a GM.

mike in boston said...

every voice that matters - from Nadir Mohamed to Handsome Tony Viner to Paul Beeston to Alex Anthopoulos to John Farrell - has relayed the same message: when it's time, the dollars will be there

we've been having this discussion since before Beeston arrived. at this point it is just a rhetorical treadmilll: we'll spend when it's time. when will that be? when the team is ready to compete. when? when the players tell me they are ready, etc.

i think it's a reflex from the JP "5 year plan" fiasco, where fans and media kept pointing out how far off schedule the Jays were. this regime doesn't want to create any expectations.

the facts are that the organization has spent heavily on player development and next to nothing on free agents. whether we want to acknowledge it or not, cutting Gregg saved a lot of money and i believe that was an added consideration for the Jays.

there are reason to be hopeful that the team will spend on high value free agents like Crawford or Werth or V-Mart. if they don't sign any impact players this off-season then we'll be back on the treadmill again ... waiting for the right time, hoping that they will come through.

mike in boston said...

Ty: AA said in his conference call tue other day that he's never even been given a budget to work within. He just brings his proposals individually to Beeston/Rogers and they've never said "no" to anything.

i don't believe AA when he says this. if the Jays don't go into a deep FA market and sign either a 1B or DH will you still believe this is true?

the team has clear and identifiable needs that can be fixed without having to trade away any of your assets. if budget is not an issue, why would you ever go the trade route for positions like 1B or DH or LF/RF?

Patrick said...

I don't understand all of the fan skepticism on the "money will be there" front. Are they not already proving this?

Since AA took over, the Jays have sent some $6M to Philly to secure better prospects in the Halladay trade . . . spent a club record $11.5M on the 2010 Amateur Draft . . . shelled out more $ to international free agents than I can remember (Hechavarria, Cardona) . . . and now sacrificed $500K and presumably extra dollars to the Rockies to gain yet another draft pick.

This is not a team being run on the cheap. All they are doing for now is funneling the club's dollars into the amateur system (for now) to build a sorely needed base. It should be obvious watching the last ten years of the franchise that pouring all of your resources into the free agent market is just as risky, if not moreso.

There is no doubt in my mind that they are doing absolutely all the right moves. Stop being so damned shortsighted with all the obsession on the Major League payroll!

The Southpaw said...

@Mike - re the "why trade instead of sign" - from what AA has said (and i think he makes sense) the thinking is that if you sign a FA you are getting a situation where you are paying full price for past production on an older guy with potentially declining return.

there's no sense in which you are getting good value on your money.

If you trade for someone - say Josh Willingham for instance - then you possibly get a better return on what you spend in terms of production. Of course, you have to factor in the value of the players you trade.

All that said, there dis not SEEM to be a lot of obvious trade targets. But what if they went after Yonder Alonso? If you successfully acquire him, instead of signing, for instance, Paul Konerko, then you ask yourself "If I pay Konerko 40 mil over 4 years, or I pay Alonzo less than 5 mil over the next 4 years plus I traded Zep and Sierra for him (just making up a deal, don't sweat the details) in which case have I gotten more on-field performance relative to the cost?

I don't think it's a given that just because you have the money means that signing a vet is automatically preferable. it depends on what's available and where you are in the growth curve and so forth.

The Southpaw said...

on the catchers - I think it's clear AA wants a vet to cover him at the start of the year who can be pushed aside by JPA if they younger player earns it. if you sign a guy like Buck, for multi years and big money, then that's difficult to do unless you anticipate trading him.

A guy like Olivo, or Zaun, or some such can be insurance early on and pushed aside easily when they judge JPA has his feet under him.

Andrew said...

I don't think there's any reason to doubt that the dollars are there, but I think that we'll see them spent in the form of retaining current players, like we did with Lind and Romero's contracts, rather than in the form of big name FA signings, which is fine by me.

As much as Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth might solidify the team in 2011, you have to figure it would force them let Bautista go at season's end, and it might also hurt their chances of retaining Marcum, Morrow and/or Lewis as they hit free agency after 2012, followed by Escobar in 2013. When you're not New York or Boston, no one free agent pickup will make your season, but it can easily break a few.

The Southpaw said...

MLBTR keeps referring to Russel Martin as a non-tender candidate - seems to me if he's at all healthy he'd be an ideal option for the sort of player I described above.

Seems I recall that once upon a time there was speculation he might move out to 3B at some point - if he gets his offense back, that would be an interesting option for the jays too, when JPA got up to "full time" status.

Anonymous said...

i'm going to keep being skeptical until i see some solid results. i don't have any rose coloured glasses about the jp years, but they said there was a plan and when that plan looked like it was ready to pay off in 07-08 the team did not do what was necessary to finish things off. maybe it was jp refusing/incapable to add the final pieces, maybe he wasn't given the resources to do it. in the end it didn't get done, and the people mainly responsible for that, rogers, still own the team. the only real difference between now and then as far as i can see is that now they don't even have the balls to say they have a plan.

Andrew said...

Whether the blame lies with JP or not is debatable, but I don't know that ownership was responsible for the team not taking that final leap back then. They shelled out the cash to bring in Glaus, Burnett, Ryan, Molina, and Overbay back in '06 when the team wanted to make a push.

Long-term success requires one of two things; Unlimited funding, or organizational depth. Since there really are only two franchises in MLB that have the former, the Jays must resort to obtaining the latter in order to put a perennial contender on the field, and that's exactly what Anthopoulos is working towards, whether it's by making trades, signing international free agents or hoarding draft picks.

In theory, signing a free agent may not cost you anything up front (except for a draft pick, maybe), but unless you're the Yankees or Red Sox, it will probably cost you the chance to keep a player or two during the duration of the contract.

As much as I enjoyed last year's success, and am optimistic that the team will build on it in 2011 under a fresh manager, I don't think now is the time to break the bank on a big-name free agent.

Scrappy said...

Man, is AA on the ball or what? For years we have to put up with hockey fans calling sports call-in shows saying the Jays (ie. JP) should trade for picks and Jeff Blair would sigh and say, you can't do that in baseball.

Except AA just did it. Very Nails AA, very nails. The catching will be fine.

Mylegacy said...

ACK - great post.

What so excites me is that AA doesn't just think outside the box he doesn't even see the box - he's way too busy making moves in several parallel universes.

Even IF AA's moves turn to dust - I'm happy. We've got ourselves a guy that is going to revolutionize how GM's think and go about their job. I'd put money on the proposition that when AA retires he will be thought of as one of the all time great GM's. AND YES - I know it is WAY too early to say that. But - what the f*ck - that's how I see it now.

Time for a scotch.

PS - Ya - I like the old logo better too!

Hurley said...

The following is a response from Griffin in his mailbag this week to a question about the use of Arencibia at season's end. It's interesting because its the first time I've ever heard any mention of teamates sort of "calling out" Arencibia.

"Just in speaking to pitchers, the other catchers and coaches last September it seemed that in the case of Arencibia, his ego is bigger than his id. Arencibia has to realize that what he doesn't know about catching is far more important to the Jays than what he does know. Yes he was the MVP of the Pacific Coast League but so was Randy Ruiz and by the end of April the slugging first baseman was headed for Japan. Arencibia shoud be given the right to earn the role of everyday catcher for the Jays, but it's as much up to him as it is to Anthopoulos and Farrell. The manager will have a chance to form his own opinion on his young catcher in the spring. He may like what he sees. As far as Arencibia being a trade possibility, other teams would likely view him the same way as do the Jays, so the return would be equally as iffy."

Tools of Ignorance said...

the only real difference between now and then as far as i can see is that now they don't even have the balls to say they have a plan.

The plan is to stockpile as much cheap, controllable assets to maintain a sustainable system, employing tactics such as increased spending on the draft, hoarding draft picks, spending more to acquire talent in various facets (see Halladay), and focusing on elite-level talent that, in all likelihood, is necessary to compete in the AL East. Sticking to an arbitrary "window of opportunity" plan can easily lead to opportunities to complete once or twice a decade.

What's also changed is having Paul Beeston as a liaison between the team management and ownership. Think of him as a translator for the communication between the two sides.

I'd say a lot has changed, but to each his own.

Anonymous said...

sorry tools of ignorance, plans mean you have goals and a timeline to accomplish them in. the team may accidentally accomplish these goals you are laying out, and that may accidentally lead to a championship. but that doesn't mean there is a plan. and a plan increases the chance of accomplishing the goals. it's pretty simple.

plain_g said...

btw, jp's plan almost worked.

Andrew said...

I think the goal and timeline is obvious: win, and ASAP. As was mentioned above, the "plan" is no longer to throw all of the team's available resources at contending for a year or two during a perceived window of opportunity. The idea is to fill the system with as much talent as possible so that at some point, they will not only have the talent to contend, but to also have the organizational depth to absorb the injuries that are inevitable when they play 162 games a year, and the loss of free agents they're unable to retain. It's not far removed from what the Rays have been doing for 7 or 8 years now.

Tools of Ignorance said...

@anon 2:16

I'm not getting into an argument over semantics, sorry.

But your logic seems bulletproof ;)

Not JP said...

I'm so itching for the season to start. Just knowing that AA will do a bunch of interesting things this off-season, I want to see how it starts working out.

As for Rogers footing the bill, I'm not worried. Look how much they are flushing with the Bills in Toronto. Seriously, how ugly is indoor football in the Skydome.